Formula One Chief Executive Officer Bernie Ecclestone ordered a secret $5 million payment to former Bayerische Landesbank Chief Risk Officer Gerhard Gribkowsky, his adviser on the transfer said.
“Ecclestone told me to transfer $5 million of his money to Mr. Gribkowsky by using a special company so his name wouldn’t appear,” Andre Favre, who worked as an adviser to Ecclestone, told a Munich court at Gribkowsky’s bribery trial. “All Ecclestone told me was that he owed Gribkowsky the money.”
Favre said he made the payment to the banker through a Panama-based company named Lewington Invest, which was bought for $2,000 or $3,000 by a law firm in Geneva in 2007 on behalf of Ecclestone.
Prosecutors charged Gribkowsky, who managed Munich-based BayernLB’s interest in the Formula One racing series, with accepting bribes, breach of trust and tax evasion. They claim he received $44 million in bribes to facilitate the sale of the bank’s 47 percent stake in the Formula One to CVC Capital Partners Ltd.
Gribkowsky demanded $50 million from Ecclestone as a reward for approving the deal and threatened to disclose possible tax violations by the Bambino family trust run by Ecclestone’s then wife, prosecutors said. Gribkowsky denies the charges.
BayernLB acquired the Formula One stake after the 2002 bankruptcy of Leo Kirch’s media group. Gribkowsky clashed with Ecclestone and sued him in a London court over corporate-governance rules the Formula One chief had changed to limit the lender’s influence. Ecclestone wanted to push BayernLB out and saw a chance when CVC showed interest, prosecutors said in the indictment.
Ecclestone testified in November that he saw no “alternative” to making payments to Gribkowsky as he feared that Gribkowsky might disclose information to U.K. tax authorities about the family trust that might be “very expensive” for him.